Ice skaters are completing jumps that were once thought to be nearly impossible at the 2022 Winter Olympics. But why is it so difficult to achieve these mind-boggling feats in figure skating?
A quad jump is performed when a figure skater jumps and spins 4 times in the air. It sounds simple and looks gorgeous. But it’s not an easy task, even for Olympic figure skaters.
Quadruple jumps have traditionally been achieved only by men, and even among men, they were once uncommon. They have, nevertheless, become somewhat of a staple. Nathan Chen, widely known as the Quad King, set a new record in the 2018 Winter Olympics by performing six quadruple leaps.
Because of the difficulty of the jump, this is an incredible feat, according to Scientific American. A skater must be in the air for at least 0.65 to 0.7 seconds to pull off a quad. They must perform four full rotations of their bodies in that short amount of time, achieving rotational rates of nearly 500 rpm. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, they also have to land gracefully while their bodies are exerting tremendous effort. A jump, in other terms, pushes the athlete to the limit.
In 2014, a biomechanist told Scientific American that he believes the quad is the physical limit of what is feasible in a figure skating leap. Olympic figure skating instructor Tom Zakrajic disagreed, believing that a quintuple jump was doable, but he did admit that the strain of a quad jump is enormous.
A quadruple jump involves landing on seven times your body weight. When they fall on a jump like that, they exert a lot of force. Even though males have typically led the way in triple jumps, some claim it feels like their intestines end up in their throats.
Women appear to be gaining control of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Kamila Vallieva became the first female to land a quadruple jump in the Olympics on February 7th, making Olympic history. She performed it twice in one routine, and when attempting a third quad jump, the 15-year-old Russian fell.
Despite this, she led her side to victory. According to one analyst, the momentous occasion will be remembered for the next 100 years. Thanks to Russian skaters like Vallieva, a group of international skaters has been astounded by how rapidly the quad leap has become a prominent component of women’s figure skating.
The transition has gone from being regarded as nearly impossible to being regarded as imperative. Mirai Nagasu, an American skater, explained the issue to The Cut, adding that the assumption that the ladies who are winning medals will have at least one quad is a little bit inconceivable. As more instructors and skaters become acquainted with the technique, it becomes easier to teach and learn, and innovations in ice skate design have also made the move more accessible to more individuals.
It’s still extremely difficult, but thanks to athletes like Kamila Valleva, the seemingly impossible is becoming a reality. The idea of men and women performing quad leaps and competing has been around for decades. At the 1988 World Figure Skating Championships, Kurt Browning became the first person to successfully land a quadruple leap. Surya Bonaly made the first female attempt in 1990.
Despite the fact that she was able to land quads in practice, she was unable to do so in competition. Sasha Cohen, a female figure skater, nailed quads during practice in 2001 but elected not to attempt them during competition in 2002. Mickey Ondo, 14, made history by becoming the first woman to land a quadruple jump competition. She later remarked at the junior Grand Prix final that the quad was no big problem for her and that she considered it as a natural progression from single, double, and triple jumps.
It would be 15 years before anyone else landed a quad after Hondo. Alexandra Trusova, then 13, landed two quad salchows and a quad toe loop in a single routine in 2018.